Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel - The Community Theater and the Bloodbath of '86
As horror fans, many of us remember the exact moment we fell in love with the genre. Whether it was the first time we were blown away by a particular film or got our first look at some of the characters that would go on to become icons of modern horror.
Our love of scary movies had to come from somewhere, and most of us can remember precisely when and where that was.
I recall it quite clearly…a normal summer 26 years ago. It would not appear to be a particularly outstanding season to the average person, but it was that summer, the Summer of 1986, and one small town movie theater, that forged my love of horror. And it is for that reason that we give a big Doctor Gash Tip of the Scalpel to The Community Theater and the Bloodbath of '86.
Within my hometown of Catskill in upstate New York sits a non-descript brick building that blends in with the rest of the structures on Main Street. That building is The Community Theater. Now, needless to say, Catskill has never been known as a hotbed of horror; however, during the Summer of 1986, the screens in The Community Theater displayed unforgettable horrors that transformed my impressionable 12-year-old mind into that of the horror fanatic you see before you today.
The first of the two screenings that comprise what I like to call The Bloodbath of '86 was Lamberto Bava’s Demoni, or as we know it, just plain old Demons. Although the movie was released in 1985, I distinctly remember it being 1986 when it came to Catskill. In fact, I remember it being June 6, 1986 (which a quick Internet search confirmed was a Friday night) when I attended the show. It did not go unnoticed that the date was (loosely) 6/6/6. Actually it was 6/6/86, but for an already terrified pre-teen brain, that was close enough to the number of the beast. Add to this the fact that I had no idea what I was in for…and what the hell was an Italian horror film doing in a theater with two screens which normally featured films like Crocodile Dundee and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo? I was not prepared for this. All day long rumors of the movie floated throughout my school: "They say it’s the scariest movie ever!", "It’s the goriest movie ever! and the ever popular "I heard people in the audience were throwing up!"
Of course, everything went as you would expect. I freaked out when Geretta Geretta turned into one of the creepiest, most bloodthirsty demons ever presented on screen. I will never forget the reveal. One of my favorites of all time! She had just gone through the first phase of her transformation from movie-going hottie to partial demon when a pus-filled blemish on her face exploded. As you know, from there her other movie-going hottie friend comes into the bathroom to find her huddled in a stall, hiding her face. (Isn’t that the worst when they hide their face and you're expecting Geretta Geretta, and bang-o! you get full-on demonic insanity?!) Suddenly, she turns around and reveals what I believe is one of the most disturbing horror faces of all time, and just like that, instant traumatization for an unsuspecting 12-year-old.
To refresh your memory, I've included this photo of the scene I just described. This is Geretta Geretta, just after she transformed (it’s not the claws or the mouth froth as much as the eyes in this pic that still scare the shit out of me). Her friend is apparently trying to cram her back into the bathroom stall, and needless to say that doesn’t work, and a world-wide demon pandemic follows shortly thereafter. And a theater full of 12-year-old kids sat there slack-jawed, watching the whole thing unfold. Good-bye innocence of youth.
But if this wasn’t enough, if the assault of Demons on our small, unsuspecting town wasn't enough, there was a whole new trauma awaiting us just a few weeks later.
Much to my unbridled glee, on August 22, 1986, the Community Theater screened The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: "After a decade of silence, the buzz is back!" A must-see if there ever was one.
I was the first one in the theater. Literally the first person there. I sat and listened to fellow movie-goers approaching. However, instead of imagining happy audience members armed with popcorn and candy, I had myself nearly convinced that what I was hearing was Leatherface and the rest of the Sawyer clan coming to get me. I sat paralyzed in fear. However, in retrospect you've got to consider how ironic it would be if the killers from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre actually killed someone watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2? A little too ironic, I really do think.
But, of course, it wasn’t crazy chainsaw killers coming. It was simply smiling, popcorn-toting movie-goers. But my pump was primed and I sat there, watched this sequel and thought it may be the most brilliant piece of art ever created. The initial scene drew us in with Leatherface sawing off the top of a guy’s head while they sped down the road in two cars side by side, and we sat entranced right up to the point where Stretch goes off the deep end after dispatching of this new actor who blew our doors off. A man we would come to know and love as Bill Moseley. Upon re-watching the film years later (without the crippling pre-film thought of Leatherface disemboweling me), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was not exactly the opus I originally thought it was. But at that moment, in that theater, during the Bloodbath of 1986, it was perfect.
Somehow I managed to grow up and become a contributing member of society. As readers of Dread Central, I'll assume you're like me. We all watched every horror movie we could get our hands on and listened to devil worshipers like Judas Priest and AC/DC, and somehow we managed not to go on multiple-state killing sprees. But if ever there was an establishment trying to manufacture serial killers from America’s youth, it was The Community Theater during the Bloodbath of '86, and it's with great pride that we give them a Doctor Gash Tip of the Scalpel.
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